It's been one month since the climate movement won a significant delay on the Keystone XL pipeline. Since then, the oil industry and their political and media backers have gotten increasingly desperate:
- Oil companies tried to ram a vote on Keystone through the U.S. Senate. Last week, that effort collapsed in disarray and finger-pointing among the fossil fuel industry's biggest political boosters.
- TransCanada, the Canadian company behind Keystone, even resorted to threats to sue the U.S. government under NAFTA. Early this month, they were forced to disavow that outrageous tactic.
- Pro-Keystone commentators are truly grasping at straws, including claiming that President Obama is delaying a decision to pave the way for a government takeover of the energy sector,1 and arguing that it's the poor, under-resourced oil industry—and not the environmental movement—that’s the real underdog in the fight over the pipeline.2
These bottom-of-the-barrel tactics signal that fossil fuel corporations will do anything to avoid facing up to the view that one prominent analyst voiced this month: "We have been of the opinion for nearly a year now that Keystone XL is dead."3This delay means another year that tar sands oil stays in the ground, instead of flowing through the pipeline. This delay is another nail in the coffin of this disastrous project. And you—the incredible grassroots tide of resolve and determination—are the ones who made this happen.
Keystone would have been just another routine dirty energy infrastructure project if not for public pressure—like the unprecedented 2.5 million public comments submitted into the approvals process. People all along the pipeline route, from Alberta to the Gulf Coast—especially Indigenous communities and farming communities—mobilized against the project.
Another key factor has been the threat of massive civil disobedience if President Obama approves the pipeline—one veteran environmental campaigner called it the "sharpest arrow in the quiver" of the Keystone opposition movement. Almost 100,000 people signed Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance, committing to take direct action if the administration lights the fuse of the continent’s biggest carbon bomb.
So while we're proud that the movement won a major delay, the struggle is far from over. Here at Rainforest Action Network, we're staying vigilant on Keystone. We're continuing to hone the cutting edge of the climate movement by training committed activists. And we're taking fast, strategic action to block dirty energy deals.
Thank you for all you've done.
1. “Obama Blocks Keystone To Start Energy Takeover,” Investor’s Business Daily, May 13, 2014 (http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials-perspective/051314-700702-obama-wants-energy-markets-fossil-fuels-under-government-heel.htm)
2. “Mainstream media don't know Big Green has deeper pockets than Big Oil,” Washington Examiner, May 13, 2014 (http://washingtonexaminer.com/mainstream-media-dont-know-big-green-has-deeper-pockets-than-big-oil/article/2548405)
3. “The Keystone Pipeline is Quickly Becoming Obsolete,” Business Insider, May 7, 2014 (http://www.businessinsider.com/the-keystone-pipeline-is-quickly-becoming-obsolete-2014-5)
If you've been glued to the emerging news on the Keystone XL pipeline like the RAN team has today then you already know that a final decision on this disastrous extreme energy project has been further delayed. Today, the Obama administration extended the review period on the pipeline to ostensibly give agencies more time to provide feedback. You're going to see a lot of quarterbacking on what this potential delay does or does not mean for the eventual fate of this pipeline. Here's what we know for sure.
The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline fight is and will continue to be a defining moment for the history of the climate movement, and it's not over. We have to maintain bold, powerful pressure on President Obama and the State Department. Make no mistake, though, the pressure is working. The fact that this pipeline was not rubber-stamped as expected two years ago reflects the huge public outcry we've built collectively against Keystone XL and for sane climate solutions.
We know that people power is on our side and has already changed the historical fate of this project. As organizers, we also know that our dirty oil adversaries are hoping this delay will take the wind out of our sails, that we'll forget about Keystone XL and lose momentum. I have nearly 100,000 reasons to prove that's not going to happen.
For the last twelve months, Rainforest Action Network, CREDO and the Other 98% have spearheaded an effort to prepare tens of thousands of people across the country to deploy a massive nationwide wave of peaceful, dignified civil disobedience if Secretary Kerry recommends approval of Keystone XL to the president. As of today, more than 95,000 people have signed the Pledge of Resistance.
As Elijah Zarlin, CREDO's senior campaign manager said today: “It is deeply disappointing that Secretary Kerry and President Obama can’t yet muster the courage to stand up to the oil industry and reject Keystone XL. Still, this is yet another defeat for TransCanada, tar sands developers like the Koch Brothers, and oil-soaked politicians. No doubt, the nearly 100,000 people who have pledged to risk arrest to stop Keystone XL played a key role in pushing the administration to more accurately consider the full impact of this project - which must clearly result in rejection. No delays will diminish our commitment to stopping Keystone XL."
I am one of the almost 100,000 people who’ve signed the Pledge of Resistance, and I can guarantee that today’s news changes nothing for me. I'm not going away, RAN's not going away and neither are any of our allies. When I signed that pledge I knew it was for the long haul. Our future depends on it.
Photo by Kayana Szymczak.
1. Keystone XL means more oil, and ship traffic, through the Houston Ship Canal. That means more oil spills.[caption id="attachment_23517" align="alignnone" width="530"] Tug boats moved damaged barge the spilled 168,000 gallons of oil into Galveston Bay. Photo via inhabitat.com[/caption] When complete, 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil will flow through Keystone XL everyday. If the oil doesn't spill on its 2000 mile journey from Alberta, Canada, refineries in Houston will process much of it. That will lead to more shipping traffic in Galveston Bay and potentially more oil spills.
2. While the industry profits, communities deal with sickening pollution from extracting and burning tar sands.[caption id="attachment_23515" align="alignnone" width="530"] Galveston Bay oil spill clean up next to communities in Texas. Photo Credit: Smiley N. Pool/AP[/caption] Oil is toxic and communities like Pike, TX will be forced to deal with the health impacts of this week's spill. Keystone XL will increase tar sands extraction in Alberta, Canada, where First Nation communities already face health impacts from the industry. At the other end of the pipeline, refining the tar sands will lead to increased air pollution for communities—primarily communities of color—in Houston. Climate change from burning tar sands oil threatens us all.
3. Keystone XL is a threat to wildlife.[caption id="attachment_23516" align="alignnone" width="530"] A bird killed by this week's Galveston Bay spill. Photo Credit: Melissa Phillip/AP[/caption] The oil spill in Galveston is disrupting critical habitat for diverse migrating birds. While it's actually not the biggest spill to hit Galveston Bay, it couldn't have happened at a worse time for the wintering birds at Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary (which is half a a mile from the spill!). At least 10 have died and 50 have been taken to rescue centers. The long-term effects up and down the food chain could also be devastating as oil stays in the sand for years. Tar sands extraction is already destroying giant swaths of Canada's boreal forest. Keystone XL could spill and damage critical habitat anywhere along its route. It particularly threatens North America's tallest bird, the critically endangered Whooping Crane. There are little more that 500 individuals left and the route of the pipeline lines up almost exactly with the their own range.
4. Keystone XL could disrupt our economy and food system.[caption id="attachment_23518" align="alignnone" width="530"] Booms attempt to contain the Galveston Bay oil spill. Photo Credit: Smiley N. Pool/AP[/caption] The spill will have a huge economic toll. Not only did it shut down one of the world's busiest waterways for 3 days, it will disrupt Galveston Island's lucrative tourism industry right in the middle of spring break. Perhaps most damaging, it will have long-term consequences for the Galveston Bay's multibillion dollar commercial and recreational fishing industry. Keystone XL might contribute to another spill in Galveston Bay, but a spill anywhere could have serious impacts on agriculture. Particularly, the pipeline threatens the Oglalla Aquifer, the largest source of fresh water in the United States and supply for much of the nations's bread basket. Climate change caused by expanding tar sands will have catastrophic effects on our economy and food system.
5. There's hope.[caption id="attachment_23519" align="alignnone" width="530"] A rescued bird recovers from the Galveston Bay oil spill. Photo Credit: Chase A. Fountain/TPWD[/caption] Hundreds have volunteered to clean up after the oil spill and experts are working tirelessly to protect birds from the heavy oil. Humans have a great capacity to come together during a crisis. Well, Keystone XL is a crisis for communities and the climate. Let's come together to stop it. Sign the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance today! Correction: In a previous version of this blog I refer to the oil spilled as crude. The oil spilled was bunker fuel oil, a thick, tarry fuel usually used on board ships.